Emmy Awards: What You Missed

The Emmys: a night when all of our favorite TV stars get dressed up and gather together to celebrate the best of the year.  I have always loved these awards especially when TV shows that I have watched win: I feel a little sense of accomplishment that I chose the right show.  This year they moved the show to a Monday night, just to spice things up.

With all that said, here are my hot takes:

  • I was ready to pull a Kanye West when “Game of Thrones” won again, because honestly this final season of “The Americans” was genius, the last episode is still causing me anxiety.
  • “Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” is great and deserved all of the awards, I just wish Amy Sherman-Palladino had spent some of this energy on the last season of “Gilmore Girls.”
  • Where is the love for the favorite show of our Moms, “NCIS”? Consistently one of the most watched shows in America, consistently ignored by the Emmy’s.  
  • #JesuitEducated co-host, Colin Jost aka Mr. Scarlett Johansson, and Michael Che should stick to Weekend Update. 

 

  • Acceptance Speeches- I have a brand new appreciation for them, especially when they are filled with gratitude.  Regina King’s acceptance was a wonderful moment for an actress who knocked it out of the park in “Seven Seconds”.  

 

  • The Proposal-  Of all the acceptance speeches this year, one obviously stands out.  Glenn Weiss won for outstanding directing for a variety special, it was his 14th time winning (show off).  This 14th time on stage, he used his time to propose to his girlfriend.

While his now fiance was obviously surprised, the reaction shots from the various celebrities were great as well, the room was filled with joy.

  • Grief and Loss- So many actors and actresses won for portraying characters that suffered a lot. Regina King won for her role as a grieving mother in “Seven Seconds”.  Rachel Brosnahan won for her role as a wife who husband suddenly leaves her in “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”. Matthew Rhys, as a Soviet Spy, lost the American Dream in “The Americans”. He lost it so hard I’ll never be able to ride Amtrak again without thinking of one of the final scenes. These characters probably could have used a good pastoral care conversation. Thankfully there are folks being trained to do that (I know a few! Heck, I might be one of them?), but that doesn’t make for exciting TV…yet.  
  • Predictions for next year: NCIS will not be nominated…again.  Game of Thrones will win…again. Alice Isn’t Dead, based on the podcast by the same name, will be nominated for a lot of awards. And I will never be asked to comment on TV again due to extreme bias because my sister’s brother-in-law works in Hollywood.

 

//

Cover image courtesy of FlickrCC user anthony_goto.

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Emmy Awards: What You Missed

The Emmys: a night when all of our favorite TV stars get dressed up and gather together to celebrate the best of the year.  I have always loved these awards especially when TV shows that I have watched win: I feel a little sense of accomplishment that I chose the right show.  This year they moved the show to a Monday night, just to spice things up.

With all that said, here are my hot takes:

  • I was ready to pull a Kanye West when “Game of Thrones” won again, because honestly this final season of “The Americans” was genius, the last episode is still causing me anxiety.
  • “Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” is great and deserved all of the awards, I just wish Amy Sherman-Palladino had spent some of this energy on the last season of “Gilmore Girls.”
  • Where is the love for the favorite show of our Moms, “NCIS”? Consistently one of the most watched shows in America, consistently ignored by the Emmy’s.  
  • #JesuitEducated co-host, Colin Jost aka Mr. Scarlett Johansson, and Michael Che should stick to Weekend Update. 

 

  • Acceptance Speeches- I have a brand new appreciation for them, especially when they are filled with gratitude.  Regina King’s acceptance was a wonderful moment for an actress who knocked it out of the park in “Seven Seconds”.  

 

  • The Proposal-  Of all the acceptance speeches this year, one obviously stands out.  Glenn Weiss won for outstanding directing for a variety special, it was his 14th time winning (show off).  This 14th time on stage, he used his time to propose to his girlfriend.

While his now fiance was obviously surprised, the reaction shots from the various celebrities were great as well, the room was filled with joy.

  • Grief and Loss- So many actors and actresses won for portraying characters that suffered a lot. Regina King won for her role as a grieving mother in “Seven Seconds”.  Rachel Brosnahan won for her role as a wife who husband suddenly leaves her in “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”. Matthew Rhys, as a Soviet Spy, lost the American Dream in “The Americans”. He lost it so hard I’ll never be able to ride Amtrak again without thinking of one of the final scenes. These characters probably could have used a good pastoral care conversation. Thankfully there are folks being trained to do that (I know a few! Heck, I might be one of them?), but that doesn’t make for exciting TV…yet.  
  • Predictions for next year: NCIS will not be nominated…again.  Game of Thrones will win…again. Alice Isn’t Dead, based on the podcast by the same name, will be nominated for a lot of awards. And I will never be asked to comment on TV again due to extreme bias because my sister’s brother-in-law works in Hollywood.

 

//

Cover image courtesy of FlickrCC user anthony_goto.

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via IFTTT

A Moral Perspective on the Great Recession

This month marks the tenth anniversary of the investment bank Lehman Brothers filing for bankruptcy. This event is generally regarded as the turning point in the economic event called the Great Recession. Today, the economy is booming, though many are predicting the next recession. With that in mind, what lessons might we take from the past ten years of economic recession and recovery?

For starters, while it is easy to speak of “the economy” as a monolithic entity which is either good or bad, doing so hardly captures the economic experience of most human beings. Looking at the economy in such a singular manner can bring less clarity, not more. Better (but still not ideal) is to look at levels of workers across the tripartite division of low, middle, and upper class.

The Recession hit low-income workers hardest and they have been the slowest to catch up in the recovery. The middle class has certainly felt the effects of the Recession, but as unemployment has fallen to historic lows, finding a job for a college grad has become significantly easier.

What about the upper class? It seems that the 1%-ers have done better than anyone else in the economic recovery. But what exactly does “better” mean? Obviously, in this context, “better” means “more”, as in the wealth and income of the richest has increased at a higher rate.There is, however, a problem: more doesn’t always mean better. Certainly, for those on the lower end of the income scale, when more means rising out of destitution, we can call that better. However, at the other end of the spectrum, it is not clear if having more does anyone any good.

These words of Jesus can point us in the right direction: “Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God” (Mt 19:24). Jesus asserts here that when it comes to salvation, riches can be a real moral hazard. So while the economic recovery has further increased the wealth of the richest, perhaps in the long run it’s actually made them worse off.

The influential 20th-century economist John Maynard Keynes is famous for his quotation: “In the long run, we are all dead.” He’s not wrong. But he may have overlooked the significance of what happens after we die. Maybe we can best interpret his observation as a sort of memento mori — we will have to meet our Maker eventually, so we had better prepare now.

What does it mean to consider the ultimate end in economic matters? Does the admonition of Jesus mean that we ought to seek a radical redistribution of wealth? Should the rich just give their money away, as Peter Singer suggests? I think the wisdom of the Catholic tradition offers a reasonable middle way: instead of considering the good of the whole economy as a mere aggregate of the wealth of its parts, we ought to re-introduce a robust understanding of the common good. The common good is a foundational concept in Catholic social teaching which recognizes that the dignity of the human person as foundational and places material needs in a larger spiritual and existential context. In seeking the common good we are called to balance our own needs with those of the whole community. In other words, we can’t be purely self-interested, as most economics assumes.

Acting with an eye to the common good doesn’t mean acting purely altruistically, but it does entail putting the good of the whole at the forefront. Concretely, for those of us who enjoy economic status, this might mean acting against what are your short term economic interests. For example, expanding government funding to address a problem specific crises like opioid addiction seems consistent with the common good, but so does allowing for a high degree of freedom in markets to stimulate investment, growth, and innovation.

Ultimately, in the wake of the Great Recession, calls for economic reform and greater economic justice must not fall on deaf ears. As we sit in a relatively comfortable economic situation, with stock markets hitting record highs, the time for structural change is upon us. In the face of polls indicating that the economy is not a major political concern, Catholics and people of good will ought to advocate for change while we can afford it, not just for the material benefit of the poor but also for the spiritual benefit of the rich.

This article is a continuation of TJP’s November ’18 midterm elections series focused on faithful and discerning citizenship.

***

Image courtesy FlickrCC user Bernard Spragg. NZ.

from The Jesuit Post https://ift.tt/2QOzBVs
via IFTTT

A Moral Perspective on the Great Recession

This month marks the tenth anniversary of the investment bank Lehman Brothers filing for bankruptcy. This event is generally regarded as the turning point in the economic event called the Great Recession. Today, the economy is booming, though many are predicting the next recession. With that in mind, what lessons might we take from the past ten years of economic recession and recovery?

For starters, while it is easy to speak of “the economy” as a monolithic entity which is either good or bad, doing so hardly captures the economic experience of most human beings. Looking at the economy in such a singular manner can bring less clarity, not more. Better (but still not ideal) is to look at levels of workers across the tripartite division of low, middle, and upper class.

The Recession hit low-income workers hardest and they have been the slowest to catch up in the recovery. The middle class has certainly felt the effects of the Recession, but as unemployment has fallen to historic lows, finding a job for a college grad has become significantly easier.

What about the upper class? It seems that the 1%-ers have done better than anyone else in the economic recovery. But what exactly does “better” mean? Obviously, in this context, “better” means “more”, as in the wealth and income of the richest has increased at a higher rate.There is, however, a problem: more doesn’t always mean better. Certainly, for those on the lower end of the income scale, when more means rising out of destitution, we can call that better. However, at the other end of the spectrum, it is not clear if having more does anyone any good.

These words of Jesus can point us in the right direction: “Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God” (Mt 19:24). Jesus asserts here that when it comes to salvation, riches can be a real moral hazard. So while the economic recovery has further increased the wealth of the richest, perhaps in the long run it’s actually made them worse off.

The influential 20th-century economist John Maynard Keynes is famous for his quotation: “In the long run, we are all dead.” He’s not wrong. But he may have overlooked the significance of what happens after we die. Maybe we can best interpret his observation as a sort of memento mori — we will have to meet our Maker eventually, so we had better prepare now.

What does it mean to consider the ultimate end in economic matters? Does the admonition of Jesus mean that we ought to seek a radical redistribution of wealth? Should the rich just give their money away, as Peter Singer suggests? I think the wisdom of the Catholic tradition offers a reasonable middle way: instead of considering the good of the whole economy as a mere aggregate of the wealth of its parts, we ought to re-introduce a robust understanding of the common good. The common good is a foundational concept in Catholic social teaching which recognizes that the dignity of the human person as foundational and places material needs in a larger spiritual and existential context. In seeking the common good we are called to balance our own needs with those of the whole community. In other words, we can’t be purely self-interested, as most economics assumes.

Acting with an eye to the common good doesn’t mean acting purely altruistically, but it does entail putting the good of the whole at the forefront. Concretely, for those of us who enjoy economic status, this might mean acting against what are your short term economic interests. For example, expanding government funding to address a problem specific crises like opioid addiction seems consistent with the common good, but so does allowing for a high degree of freedom in markets to stimulate investment, growth, and innovation.

Ultimately, in the wake of the Great Recession, calls for economic reform and greater economic justice must not fall on deaf ears. As we sit in a relatively comfortable economic situation, with stock markets hitting record highs, the time for structural change is upon us. In the face of polls indicating that the economy is not a major political concern, Catholics and people of good will ought to advocate for change while we can afford it, not just for the material benefit of the poor but also for the spiritual benefit of the rich.

This article is a continuation of TJP’s November ’18 midterm elections series focused on faithful and discerning citizenship.

***

Image courtesy FlickrCC user Bernard Spragg. NZ.

from The Jesuit Post https://ift.tt/2QOzBVs
via IFTTT

Seeing Past “Marvel’s Iron Fist: Season 2”

[Warning: Article contains spoilers.]

 

What are we supposed to do with our pasts?

It’s a fundamentally human question—and probably one which sounds melodramatic or overly philosophical—yet it is the question driving Marvel’s Iron Fist: Season 2.

We make mistakes, we have wounds, we have missteps… basically, we all have pasts. The second season of Marvel’s Iron Fist wrestles with this in two ways. On a practical level, due to missteps and a bland start, the first season received an overwhelming “meh” in terms of reviews from both critics and audience members alike. It lacked the action we hoped for, held too many questions, and quite frankly did more work setting up Marvel’s Defenders than actually presenting coherent characters or plot. But, Netflix and Marvel were faced with the same problem we are faced with every day: we cannot change our pasts.

Yet, that is part of the brilliance of the second season: it doesn’t ignore the events and failings of the first season, but it moves past them by tying together questions of an individual’s past with questions of reinvention and moving forward. In a meta-commentary on its own past, Marvel’s Iron Fist leans on the events of the first season and Marvel’s Defenders to set the groundwork for the second season, but it does not dwell in either of these. Rather, Season 2 opens with Danny Rand, “The Immortal Iron Fist”, fighting crime with his glowing hand of power—it’s exactly what we didn’t get enough of in Season 1.

Marvel and Danny Rand do not simply reinvent the hero or the series; instead, Danny carries with him all the baggage of the previous storylines. He is motivated by the guilt after Daredevil’s sacrifice in Marvel’s Defenders, and this guilt results in him taking his mission far beyond the bounds of reasonable. Throughout Season 2, this self-laid pressure builds, driving Danny flagrantly to risk his life, and he takes the failings of the community and situation as personal failures. Despite the glowing fists and kung-fu moves, this trap of allowing our guilt to define us can lead to similar self destructive behavior.

Which brings us to one of the shockingly relevant questions about one’s past that drives the underlying tensions of the season…

How do we appropriately cope with our pasts?

The series problematizes the concept of coping—reminding us that even though someone might be “doing well”, that doesn’t mean that they have accepted or processed their past. Danny Rand by all external accounts seems to be doing well in terms of his superpower, but we quickly see that he is addicted to the power of the Iron Fist. While the audience gets a cathartic release seeing the glowing-fist fight scenes, these moments seem to carry Danny’s own “release” of self. In an early moment within Season 2, we see Danny practicing with the glowing-power fist, but it is evident that he is there practicing as an escape from his responsibilities, relationships, and life.

Despite the appearance of success, we cannot help but wonder how deep the cracks run within Danny. Similarly, we have to ask ourselves whether we use our own strength and success to cover our wounds rather than addressing them.

In a telling scene which captures the tone of the second season, Ward Meachum stands in front of a Narcotics Anonymous meeting and confesses that he has covered his pain with drug use, sarcasm/cynicism, and fundamentally does not know who he is… Though he had questionable motivations in the first season, in Season 2 he spends much of his energy wrestling with his own guilt, anger, and desire to change.

Of course, the question for Ward and Danny is the same for us…

Are we free enough to move forward?

Netflix and Marvel seem to have committed to moving forward, now replacing Danny Rand with his girlfriend Colleen Wing as “The Immortal Iron Fist.” Their commitment to a young woman—and a young Asian American actor at that—demonstrates that despite some of the missteps of the first season, they are committed to moving forward in a brand-new way.

As Danny relinquishes the Iron Fist to Colleen Wing at the end of Season 2, he does so uncertain “who he is” without the superpower. The Iron Fist had become less a power and more a crutch keeping him from healing. The season closes with he and Ward boarding a plane destined for personal change and exploration—they quite literally move forward in order to process their pasts and to seek something new. As Danny claims, “You already know who you are. Why not find out who you could be?”

In the mysterious final scene, Ward’s line, “We can’t know the future. Not completely,” strikes a familiar chord for our own struggles. We may not be able to forget or change our pasts, but we can accept them and move towards the next season—and towards our mysterious next step beyond the mires of our pasts.

//

Cover image courtesy of FlickrCC user Etienne Salvant.

from The Jesuit Post https://ift.tt/2OHpW1I
via IFTTT

Seeing Past “Marvel’s Iron Fist: Season 2”

[Warning: Article contains spoilers.]

 

What are we supposed to do with our pasts?

It’s a fundamentally human question—and probably one which sounds melodramatic or overly philosophical—yet it is the question driving Marvel’s Iron Fist: Season 2.

We make mistakes, we have wounds, we have missteps… basically, we all have pasts. The second season of Marvel’s Iron Fist wrestles with this in two ways. On a practical level, due to missteps and a bland start, the first season received an overwhelming “meh” in terms of reviews from both critics and audience members alike. It lacked the action we hoped for, held too many questions, and quite frankly did more work setting up Marvel’s Defenders than actually presenting coherent characters or plot. But, Netflix and Marvel were faced with the same problem we are faced with every day: we cannot change our pasts.

Yet, that is part of the brilliance of the second season: it doesn’t ignore the events and failings of the first season, but it moves past them by tying together questions of an individual’s past with questions of reinvention and moving forward. In a meta-commentary on its own past, Marvel’s Iron Fist leans on the events of the first season and Marvel’s Defenders to set the groundwork for the second season, but it does not dwell in either of these. Rather, Season 2 opens with Danny Rand, “The Immortal Iron Fist”, fighting crime with his glowing hand of power—it’s exactly what we didn’t get enough of in Season 1.

Marvel and Danny Rand do not simply reinvent the hero or the series; instead, Danny carries with him all the baggage of the previous storylines. He is motivated by the guilt after Daredevil’s sacrifice in Marvel’s Defenders, and this guilt results in him taking his mission far beyond the bounds of reasonable. Throughout Season 2, this self-laid pressure builds, driving Danny flagrantly to risk his life, and he takes the failings of the community and situation as personal failures. Despite the glowing fists and kung-fu moves, this trap of allowing our guilt to define us can lead to similar self destructive behavior.

Which brings us to one of the shockingly relevant questions about one’s past that drives the underlying tensions of the season…

How do we appropriately cope with our pasts?

The series problematizes the concept of coping—reminding us that even though someone might be “doing well”, that doesn’t mean that they have accepted or processed their past. Danny Rand by all external accounts seems to be doing well in terms of his superpower, but we quickly see that he is addicted to the power of the Iron Fist. While the audience gets a cathartic release seeing the glowing-fist fight scenes, these moments seem to carry Danny’s own “release” of self. In an early moment within Season 2, we see Danny practicing with the glowing-power fist, but it is evident that he is there practicing as an escape from his responsibilities, relationships, and life.

Despite the appearance of success, we cannot help but wonder how deep the cracks run within Danny. Similarly, we have to ask ourselves whether we use our own strength and success to cover our wounds rather than addressing them.

In a telling scene which captures the tone of the second season, Ward Meachum stands in front of a Narcotics Anonymous meeting and confesses that he has covered his pain with drug use, sarcasm/cynicism, and fundamentally does not know who he is… Though he had questionable motivations in the first season, in Season 2 he spends much of his energy wrestling with his own guilt, anger, and desire to change.

Of course, the question for Ward and Danny is the same for us…

Are we free enough to move forward?

Netflix and Marvel seem to have committed to moving forward, now replacing Danny Rand with his girlfriend Colleen Wing as “The Immortal Iron Fist.” Their commitment to a young woman—and a young Asian American actor at that—demonstrates that despite some of the missteps of the first season, they are committed to moving forward in a brand-new way.

As Danny relinquishes the Iron Fist to Colleen Wing at the end of Season 2, he does so uncertain “who he is” without the superpower. The Iron Fist had become less a power and more a crutch keeping him from healing. The season closes with he and Ward boarding a plane destined for personal change and exploration—they quite literally move forward in order to process their pasts and to seek something new. As Danny claims, “You already know who you are. Why not find out who you could be?”

In the mysterious final scene, Ward’s line, “We can’t know the future. Not completely,” strikes a familiar chord for our own struggles. We may not be able to forget or change our pasts, but we can accept them and move towards the next season—and towards our mysterious next step beyond the mires of our pasts.

//

Cover image courtesy of FlickrCC user Etienne Salvant.

from The Jesuit Post https://ift.tt/2OHpW1I
via IFTTT

Seeing Past “Marvel’s Iron Fist: Season 2”

[Warning: Article contains spoilers.]

 

What are we supposed to do with our pasts?

It’s a fundamentally human question—and probably one which sounds melodramatic or overly philosophical—yet it is the question driving Marvel’s Iron Fist: Season 2.

We make mistakes, we have wounds, we have missteps… basically, we all have pasts. The second season of Marvel’s Iron Fist wrestles with this in two ways. On a practical level, due to missteps and a bland start, the first season received an overwhelming “meh” in terms of reviews from both critics and audience members alike. It lacked the action we hoped for, held too many questions, and quite frankly did more work setting up Marvel’s Defenders than actually presenting coherent characters or plot. But, Netflix and Marvel were faced with the same problem we are faced with every day: we cannot change our pasts.

Yet, that is part of the brilliance of the second season: it doesn’t ignore the events and failings of the first season, but it moves past them by tying together questions of an individual’s past with questions of reinvention and moving forward. In a meta-commentary on its own past, Marvel’s Iron Fist leans on the events of the first season and Marvel’s Defenders to set the groundwork for the second season, but it does not dwell in either of these. Rather, Season 2 opens with Danny Rand, “The Immortal Iron Fist”, fighting crime with his glowing hand of power—it’s exactly what we didn’t get enough of in Season 1.

Marvel and Danny Rand do not simply reinvent the hero or the series; instead, Danny carries with him all the baggage of the previous storylines. He is motivated by the guilt after Daredevil’s sacrifice in Marvel’s Defenders, and this guilt results in him taking his mission far beyond the bounds of reasonable. Throughout Season 2, this self-laid pressure builds, driving Danny flagrantly to risk his life, and he takes the failings of the community and situation as personal failures. Despite the glowing fists and kung-fu moves, this trap of allowing our guilt to define us can lead to similar self destructive behavior.

Which brings us to one of the shockingly relevant questions about one’s past that drives the underlying tensions of the season…

How do we appropriately cope with our pasts?

The series problematizes the concept of coping—reminding us that even though someone might be “doing well”, that doesn’t mean that they have accepted or processed their past. Danny Rand by all external accounts seems to be doing well in terms of his superpower, but we quickly see that he is addicted to the power of the Iron Fist. While the audience gets a cathartic release seeing the glowing-fist fight scenes, these moments seem to carry Danny’s own “release” of self. In an early moment within Season 2, we see Danny practicing with the glowing-power fist, but it is evident that he is there practicing as an escape from his responsibilities, relationships, and life.

Despite the appearance of success, we cannot help but wonder how deep the cracks run within Danny. Similarly, we have to ask ourselves whether we use our own strength and success to cover our wounds rather than addressing them.

In a telling scene which captures the tone of the second season, Ward Meachum stands in front of a Narcotics Anonymous meeting and confesses that he has covered his pain with drug use, sarcasm/cynicism, and fundamentally does not know who he is… Though he had questionable motivations in the first season, in Season 2 he spends much of his energy wrestling with his own guilt, anger, and desire to change.

Of course, the question for Ward and Danny is the same for us…

Are we free enough to move forward?

Netflix and Marvel seem to have committed to moving forward, now replacing Danny Rand with his girlfriend Colleen Wing as “The Immortal Iron Fist.” Their commitment to a young woman—and a young Asian American actor at that—demonstrates that despite some of the missteps of the first season, they are committed to moving forward in a brand-new way.

As Danny relinquishes the Iron Fist to Colleen Wing at the end of Season 2, he does so uncertain “who he is” without the superpower. The Iron Fist had become less a power and more a crutch keeping him from healing. The season closes with he and Ward boarding a plane destined for personal change and exploration—they quite literally move forward in order to process their pasts and to seek something new. As Danny claims, “You already know who you are. Why not find out who you could be?”

In the mysterious final scene, Ward’s line, “We can’t know the future. Not completely,” strikes a familiar chord for our own struggles. We may not be able to forget or change our pasts, but we can accept them and move towards the next season—and towards our mysterious next step beyond the mires of our pasts.

//

Cover image courtesy of FlickrCC user Etienne Salvant.

from The Jesuit Post https://ift.tt/2OHpW1I
via IFTTT

Seeing Past “Marvel’s Iron Fist: Season 2”

[Warning: Article contains spoilers.]

 

What are we supposed to do with our pasts?

It’s a fundamentally human question—and probably one which sounds melodramatic or overly philosophical—yet it is the question driving Marvel’s Iron Fist: Season 2.

We make mistakes, we have wounds, we have missteps… basically, we all have pasts. The second season of Marvel’s Iron Fist wrestles with this in two ways. On a practical level, due to missteps and a bland start, the first season received an overwhelming “meh” in terms of reviews from both critics and audience members alike. It lacked the action we hoped for, held too many questions, and quite frankly did more work setting up Marvel’s Defenders than actually presenting coherent characters or plot. But, Netflix and Marvel were faced with the same problem we are faced with every day: we cannot change our pasts.

Yet, that is part of the brilliance of the second season: it doesn’t ignore the events and failings of the first season, but it moves past them by tying together questions of an individual’s past with questions of reinvention and moving forward. In a meta-commentary on its own past, Marvel’s Iron Fist leans on the events of the first season and Marvel’s Defenders to set the groundwork for the second season, but it does not dwell in either of these. Rather, Season 2 opens with Danny Rand, “The Immortal Iron Fist”, fighting crime with his glowing hand of power—it’s exactly what we didn’t get enough of in Season 1.

Marvel and Danny Rand do not simply reinvent the hero or the series; instead, Danny carries with him all the baggage of the previous storylines. He is motivated by the guilt after Daredevil’s sacrifice in Marvel’s Defenders, and this guilt results in him taking his mission far beyond the bounds of reasonable. Throughout Season 2, this self-laid pressure builds, driving Danny flagrantly to risk his life, and he takes the failings of the community and situation as personal failures. Despite the glowing fists and kung-fu moves, this trap of allowing our guilt to define us can lead to similar self destructive behavior.

Which brings us to one of the shockingly relevant questions about one’s past that drives the underlying tensions of the season…

How do we appropriately cope with our pasts?

The series problematizes the concept of coping—reminding us that even though someone might be “doing well”, that doesn’t mean that they have accepted or processed their past. Danny Rand by all external accounts seems to be doing well in terms of his superpower, but we quickly see that he is addicted to the power of the Iron Fist. While the audience gets a cathartic release seeing the glowing-fist fight scenes, these moments seem to carry Danny’s own “release” of self. In an early moment within Season 2, we see Danny practicing with the glowing-power fist, but it is evident that he is there practicing as an escape from his responsibilities, relationships, and life.

Despite the appearance of success, we cannot help but wonder how deep the cracks run within Danny. Similarly, we have to ask ourselves whether we use our own strength and success to cover our wounds rather than addressing them.

In a telling scene which captures the tone of the second season, Ward Meachum stands in front of a Narcotics Anonymous meeting and confesses that he has covered his pain with drug use, sarcasm/cynicism, and fundamentally does not know who he is… Though he had questionable motivations in the first season, in Season 2 he spends much of his energy wrestling with his own guilt, anger, and desire to change.

Of course, the question for Ward and Danny is the same for us…

Are we free enough to move forward?

Netflix and Marvel seem to have committed to moving forward, now replacing Danny Rand with his girlfriend Colleen Wing as “The Immortal Iron Fist.” Their commitment to a young woman—and a young Asian American actor at that—demonstrates that despite some of the missteps of the first season, they are committed to moving forward in a brand-new way.

As Danny relinquishes the Iron Fist to Colleen Wing at the end of Season 2, he does so uncertain “who he is” without the superpower. The Iron Fist had become less a power and more a crutch keeping him from healing. The season closes with he and Ward boarding a plane destined for personal change and exploration—they quite literally move forward in order to process their pasts and to seek something new. As Danny claims, “You already know who you are. Why not find out who you could be?”

In the mysterious final scene, Ward’s line, “We can’t know the future. Not completely,” strikes a familiar chord for our own struggles. We may not be able to forget or change our pasts, but we can accept them and move towards the next season—and towards our mysterious next step beyond the mires of our pasts.

//

Cover image courtesy of FlickrCC user Etienne Salvant.

from The Jesuit Post https://ift.tt/2OHpW1I
via IFTTT

Seeing Past “Marvel’s Iron Fist: Season 2”

[Warning: Article contains spoilers.]

 

What are we supposed to do with our pasts?

It’s a fundamentally human question—and probably one which sounds melodramatic or overly philosophical—yet it is the question driving Marvel’s Iron Fist: Season 2.

We make mistakes, we have wounds, we have missteps… basically, we all have pasts. The second season of Marvel’s Iron Fist wrestles with this in two ways. On a practical level, due to missteps and a bland start, the first season received an overwhelming “meh” in terms of reviews from both critics and audience members alike. It lacked the action we hoped for, held too many questions, and quite frankly did more work setting up Marvel’s Defenders than actually presenting coherent characters or plot. But, Netflix and Marvel were faced with the same problem we are faced with every day: we cannot change our pasts.

Yet, that is part of the brilliance of the second season: it doesn’t ignore the events and failings of the first season, but it moves past them by tying together questions of an individual’s past with questions of reinvention and moving forward. In a meta-commentary on its own past, Marvel’s Iron Fist leans on the events of the first season and Marvel’s Defenders to set the groundwork for the second season, but it does not dwell in either of these. Rather, Season 2 opens with Danny Rand, “The Immortal Iron Fist”, fighting crime with his glowing hand of power—it’s exactly what we didn’t get enough of in Season 1.

Marvel and Danny Rand do not simply reinvent the hero or the series; instead, Danny carries with him all the baggage of the previous storylines. He is motivated by the guilt after Daredevil’s sacrifice in Marvel’s Defenders, and this guilt results in him taking his mission far beyond the bounds of reasonable. Throughout Season 2, this self-laid pressure builds, driving Danny flagrantly to risk his life, and he takes the failings of the community and situation as personal failures. Despite the glowing fists and kung-fu moves, this trap of allowing our guilt to define us can lead to similar self destructive behavior.

Which brings us to one of the shockingly relevant questions about one’s past that drives the underlying tensions of the season…

How do we appropriately cope with our pasts?

The series problematizes the concept of coping—reminding us that even though someone might be “doing well”, that doesn’t mean that they have accepted or processed their past. Danny Rand by all external accounts seems to be doing well in terms of his superpower, but we quickly see that he is addicted to the power of the Iron Fist. While the audience gets a cathartic release seeing the glowing-fist fight scenes, these moments seem to carry Danny’s own “release” of self. In an early moment within Season 2, we see Danny practicing with the glowing-power fist, but it is evident that he is there practicing as an escape from his responsibilities, relationships, and life.

Despite the appearance of success, we cannot help but wonder how deep the cracks run within Danny. Similarly, we have to ask ourselves whether we use our own strength and success to cover our wounds rather than addressing them.

In a telling scene which captures the tone of the second season, Ward Meachum stands in front of a Narcotics Anonymous meeting and confesses that he has covered his pain with drug use, sarcasm/cynicism, and fundamentally does not know who he is… Though he had questionable motivations in the first season, in Season 2 he spends much of his energy wrestling with his own guilt, anger, and desire to change.

Of course, the question for Ward and Danny is the same for us…

Are we free enough to move forward?

Netflix and Marvel seem to have committed to moving forward, now replacing Danny Rand with his girlfriend Colleen Wing as “The Immortal Iron Fist.” Their commitment to a young woman—and a young Asian American actor at that—demonstrates that despite some of the missteps of the first season, they are committed to moving forward in a brand-new way.

As Danny relinquishes the Iron Fist to Colleen Wing at the end of Season 2, he does so uncertain “who he is” without the superpower. The Iron Fist had become less a power and more a crutch keeping him from healing. The season closes with he and Ward boarding a plane destined for personal change and exploration—they quite literally move forward in order to process their pasts and to seek something new. As Danny claims, “You already know who you are. Why not find out who you could be?”

In the mysterious final scene, Ward’s line, “We can’t know the future. Not completely,” strikes a familiar chord for our own struggles. We may not be able to forget or change our pasts, but we can accept them and move towards the next season—and towards our mysterious next step beyond the mires of our pasts.

//

Cover image courtesy of FlickrCC user Etienne Salvant.

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Readers Decide: The Bishops’ Synod on the Youth

“I invite you to express yourselves frankly and freely, as I said and repeat. Be brazen. You are the protagonists and it is important that you speak openly.” – Pope Francis in address to Catholic youth

TJP wants your input: what should the role of the youth be in the Church today? What can the bishops and the Church do to make it possible?

Share your thoughts to these questions and more by commenting on this post. Or tweet and gram your thoughts using #Synod2018 and @thejesuitpost

See you in Rome!

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Waking Up to an Epidemic

To be an informed citizen is follow the news closely. These days, to follow the news closely is to be buffeted by the frenetic winds of the news-cycle.

Given such conditions, it is easy to miss what is going on beneath the surface, the events and processes that affect the lives and times of people in communities. For that, we have numbers to reorient us.

And those numbers are not encouraging.

In “Our Miserable 21st Century”, economist Nicholas Eberstadt describes in careful detail the slowing down of economic growth since the year 2000 and its products, including devastating economic insecurity for Americans in the lower income quartiles. Persistent joblessness, limited returns to educational achievement, declining standards of living and declining life expectancy have become consistent underlying features of American life in the last 20 years. Informed commentators on the Left and the Right have ably demonstrated how these trends have played out along racial and class lines.

Of all these problems, few better capture the insufficiency of our present political discourse than the lack of attention paid to the ongoing opioid addiction and overdose crisis, which claimed an estimated 72,000 lives in 2017. That estimate represents a more than hundred percent increase from a decade ago and reflects an accelerating trendline over the past few years. Deaths from opioid overdoses have exceeded deaths from both cars and guns.

Researchers have pointed to two primary causes for the present epidemic. First, a greater percentage of Americans have been prescribed opioid-based painkillers over the past two decades, largely out of a desire by doctors to manage chronic pain. While some doctors over-prescribed prescription opioids, the highly addictive nature of opioid-based painkillers prescribed even within the recommended boundaries has left millions addicted. When the prescription supply runs out, those struggling with addiction are forced to turn to more illicit sources.

This leads to the second leading cause for the uptick in overdoses: powerful chemicals like fentanyl have been mixed with traditional opioids like heroin, which can devastate users and precipitate deadly overdoses. As the legal supply constricts, those experiencing addiction have turned to sources with far lower quality controls on the product being distributed; the risk with any given dose varies widely. As law enforcement and public health agencies grapple with this spreading epidemic, the presence and ubiquity of synthetic opioids has exacerbated the present crisis.

While public investment in prevention and treatment has begun to increase at the state and federal level, most public health experts have cautioned that at this point only a modest downturn can be expected in the near future and, until treatment centers and other such infrastructure receive adequate funding and connect with patients, the primary response to the crisis will be in the hands of law enforcement, emergency responders, and the friends, families, and acquaintances of those who experience addiction.

Powerful, addictive, mind-altering substances like opioids are not easily integrated into our usual frameworks for dealing with similar substances and technologies. Our legal system still holds the user responsible for his or her actions regardless of impairment or impulse; a person cannot use drunkenness to mitigate responsibility. Similarly, theft in furtherance of assuaging an addiction cannot be explained away by appeals to ways in which addiction alters impulse control and behavior. Yet criminalization has not been effective in reducing drug addiction and dependency. Likewise, most of our moral philosophies poorly integrate all manner of technology, especially addictive chemicals and substances: the degrees of freedom, rationality, and self-possession ingredient in most ethical systems are barely factors in an epidemic of this nature.

Opioid addiction and opioid-use disorders shatter such categories to a greater degree than similar substances. They reduce human agency and obliterate the usual workings of the human will, re-ordering human desires around the single principle of servicing addiction. The usual priorities of freedom and rationality are subverted by addiction and to combat the effects and symptoms of addiction require us to de-emphasis those priorities. Considering the additional social stigma that is further attached to those experiencing opioid-use disorder, is it any wonder the responses have proven inadequate to dealing with the breadth and depth of this crisis?

Likewise, the spiritual responses to severe addiction struggles to hold. Grace supposes the cooperation of freedom. But how can one be disposed to grace amidst the relentless cycle of addiction, with its violent urges, withdrawals, highs, and crashes? Can one admit one is powerless, as the famous 12 Steps begins, in the midst of such a cycle? Could such an admission have any chance of standing? The answers are far from clear, let alone encouraging.

Despite the inadequacies of the resources available to us, we cannot let this crisis slip from our attention amidst the sturm und drang of news-cycles. Beyond the tragedy of thousands of deaths is that state of communities and families throughout the country being devastated by the loss of loved ones and the diminished human flourishing that results. Thousands are dead who ought to still be among us; thousands more are at risk.

The stakes are clear and high. We will not long endure as a moral people so long as we neglect those least among us, especially those who suffer grievously from addiction.

***

This article is a continuation of TJP’s November ’18 midterm elections series focused on faithful and discerning citizenship.

-//-

Cover image courtesy FlickrCC user Marco Verch, found here.

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Welcoming Communities with Leah Libresco

Formerly a blogger on the Patheos Atheist channel, Leah Libresco converted from atheism to Catholicism in 2012, and since then has written about spirituality, conversion, and community through the lens of things like mathematics and musicals. Her second book, Building the Benedict Option, details her own experiences plus practical tips on living out a form of intentional Christian community known as the “Benedict Option.” She is a contributing writer for America Magazine, and her writings have also appeared at First Things, FiveThirtyEight.com, and Commonweal.   

*****

TJP: Tell us a little about the Benedict Option? What drew you to it?

LL: I like Ross Douthat’s description of the Benedict Option as a religious ratchet—wherever you are, you take one more step toward hospitality and shared prayer. It’s easy to give up fellowship as our lives constrict around us—the Benedict Option is a way to push back against the thinning out of community and friendship.

 

What do you think is the biggest misconception about the Benedict Option?

The biggest misconception is that the BenOp is a retreat or a purification. Nothing gets simpler when you invite people into your home! The goal is to be better able to extend ourselves, both to the people we want to have in our community and to the ones we’re not so comfortable with. But, to be a channel of grace, we need to think about the source of grace as much as where the grace is flowing out. To spend more time with others, we need to spend more time with God, too. It’s not retreat, but retrenchment.  

 

As you note, many critics do think BenOp is a “retreat,” one that is critical of the contemporary world. For supporters of BenOp, are there lessons to be gleaned from those criticisms? Are there negative tendencies in BenOp that those criticisms might help supporters avoid?

LL: The impulse that pulls people toward desiring a retreat is the belief that the problem is really other people. That if we could just get away from the folks putting pressure on us or who are screwing things up, things would be all right. There’s something to that, sometimes folks are in an untenable situation and need some breathing room to recover. But, withdrawal will never solve our problems completely—wherever you go, there you are, chief among sinners. The true enemy is always sin, and it’s within each of us.

 

What has been the biggest surprise about living the Benedict Option?

One of the biggest surprises for me was how small people’s unmet longings are (though it shouldn’t have shocked me so much—it’s true of many of my wishes for community, too). When I gathered people to talk about what we wanted from thicker community, people wished to be able to sing with others; to visit a nearby, beautiful church with a friend; in some cases, just to see babies (D.C. gatherings can be pretty age-segregated). These are such small, natural things to want, and it was so hard to find ways to ask for them.

 

What is the best change you’ve noticed in your spiritual life thanks to the Benedict Option?

I pray more places and with more people. My husband and I have made an effort to have a personal ratchet that, when we hang out with other Christians, we try to pray together. It might be something as short as an Our Father, but so often we’d be together with people and catch up without any prayer shared at all. I want to leave more space and silence for God to prompt us.

 

You talk about wanting to share your faith with your friends through the Benedict Option, so that God is not just a “private joy.” How have you seen your friendships change (both with believers and non-believers) through the Benedict Option?

Inviting friends to pray with me (and for me!) means I get to be surprised. I get introduced to saints I don’t know, prayers I haven’t heard, hymns I haven’t sung. And when I get these introductions from a friend who loves this form of prayer, I also get to see that friend more clearly as a lover. It’s the best way to deepen my love for them and them for me.

But it’s definitely not all just private joys becoming shared ones. When my friends invite me deeper into their lives (and I invite them into mine), we speak much more about the crosses we experience. In some ways, since I’ve asked friends if I could pray for them, it seems like their lives have all gotten much worse! But what’s changed is what they’ve let me see.

 

You advise people looking to start hosting Benedict Option events that “your first event should be whatever feels easiest and most exciting to you.” Are there any first-time events that you’ve seen work especially well?

I like to just share a film (Of Gods and Men is excellent) or a play (A Man for All Seasons) because you’re guaranteed to have something to talk about. Just rent the movie (or take a bunch of scripts out at the library), serve whatever is easiest to cook (this is easy), and pick a prayer to say together and you’re good!

I also like “mixtape parties” where you ask everyone coming to bring one good thing to share. We’ve done this telling stories about saints, singing people’s favorite hymns, or having folks bring a memorized poem to recite.

 

What advice would you have for a pastor or lay minister looking to set up Benedict Option events in their parish?

My advice is to pick things that are a little stranger and more particular than the Young Adult Wine and Cheese gatherings one parish of mine used to have. We were all there just because we were the same age, but there was nothing to concentrate on, so we just had light, meaningless conversations (“Where do you work…”). Give people something a little meaty to discuss or to do, and don’t be afraid that that will narrow the event. It’s better to throw a few narrower events that let people connect than widely (but weakly) appealing ones.

 

The Benedict Option usually conjures the image of monks in a monastery, but the final image in your book is of friars in the world. What is their significance?  

I feel a little bad for St. Benedict, who did get dragged into this without the project having too much to do with him. Alasdair MacIntyre called for a “new and very different St. Benedict” who would imitate the saint in helping people hold onto what God has given us, even in the midst of tumult. Rod Dreher proposed the BenOp as a possible answer to MacIntyre’s call in our times. And I went with the name folks were using! The real connection is that our goal is to be as attentive to what God is asking of us as St. Benedict was and as faithful in following that call, but all the saints have that in common.

 

Final thoughts?

I’m hoping people don’t finish my book on the first reading, because they put it down to put one of the ideas into practice and forget to pick it up again until they’re clearing off the coffee table just before people come over.

***

Images courtesy Leah Libresco.

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Welcoming Communities with Leah Libresco

Formerly a blogger on the Patheos Atheist channel, Leah Libresco converted from atheism to Catholicism in 2012, and since then has written about spirituality, conversion, and community through the lens of things like mathematics and musicals. Her second book, Building the Benedict Option, details her own experiences plus practical tips on living out a form of intentional Christian community known as the “Benedict Option.” She is a contributing writer for America Magazine, and her writings have also appeared at First Things, FiveThirtyEight.com, and Commonweal.   

*****

TJP: Tell us a little about the Benedict Option? What drew you to it?

LL: I like Ross Douthat’s description of the Benedict Option as a religious ratchet—wherever you are, you take one more step toward hospitality and shared prayer. It’s easy to give up fellowship as our lives constrict around us—the Benedict Option is a way to push back against the thinning out of community and friendship.

 

What do you think is the biggest misconception about the Benedict Option?

The biggest misconception is that the BenOp is a retreat or a purification. Nothing gets simpler when you invite people into your home! The goal is to be better able to extend ourselves, both to the people we want to have in our community and to the ones we’re not so comfortable with. But, to be a channel of grace, we need to think about the source of grace as much as where the grace is flowing out. To spend more time with others, we need to spend more time with God, too. It’s not retreat, but retrenchment.  

 

As you note, many critics do think BenOp is a “retreat,” one that is critical of the contemporary world. For supporters of BenOp, are there lessons to be gleaned from those criticisms? Are there negative tendencies in BenOp that those criticisms might help supporters avoid?

LL: The impulse that pulls people toward desiring a retreat is the belief that the problem is really other people. That if we could just get away from the folks putting pressure on us or who are screwing things up, things would be all right. There’s something to that, sometimes folks are in an untenable situation and need some breathing room to recover. But, withdrawal will never solve our problems completely—wherever you go, there you are, chief among sinners. The true enemy is always sin, and it’s within each of us.

 

What has been the biggest surprise about living the Benedict Option?

One of the biggest surprises for me was how small people’s unmet longings are (though it shouldn’t have shocked me so much—it’s true of many of my wishes for community, too). When I gathered people to talk about what we wanted from thicker community, people wished to be able to sing with others; to visit a nearby, beautiful church with a friend; in some cases, just to see babies (D.C. gatherings can be pretty age-segregated). These are such small, natural things to want, and it was so hard to find ways to ask for them.

 

What is the best change you’ve noticed in your spiritual life thanks to the Benedict Option?

I pray more places and with more people. My husband and I have made an effort to have a personal ratchet that, when we hang out with other Christians, we try to pray together. It might be something as short as an Our Father, but so often we’d be together with people and catch up without any prayer shared at all. I want to leave more space and silence for God to prompt us.

 

You talk about wanting to share your faith with your friends through the Benedict Option, so that God is not just a “private joy.” How have you seen your friendships change (both with believers and non-believers) through the Benedict Option?

Inviting friends to pray with me (and for me!) means I get to be surprised. I get introduced to saints I don’t know, prayers I haven’t heard, hymns I haven’t sung. And when I get these introductions from a friend who loves this form of prayer, I also get to see that friend more clearly as a lover. It’s the best way to deepen my love for them and them for me.

But it’s definitely not all just private joys becoming shared ones. When my friends invite me deeper into their lives (and I invite them into mine), we speak much more about the crosses we experience. In some ways, since I’ve asked friends if I could pray for them, it seems like their lives have all gotten much worse! But what’s changed is what they’ve let me see.

 

You advise people looking to start hosting Benedict Option events that “your first event should be whatever feels easiest and most exciting to you.” Are there any first-time events that you’ve seen work especially well?

I like to just share a film (Of Gods and Men is excellent) or a play (A Man for All Seasons) because you’re guaranteed to have something to talk about. Just rent the movie (or take a bunch of scripts out at the library), serve whatever is easiest to cook (this is easy), and pick a prayer to say together and you’re good!

I also like “mixtape parties” where you ask everyone coming to bring one good thing to share. We’ve done this telling stories about saints, singing people’s favorite hymns, or having folks bring a memorized poem to recite.

 

What advice would you have for a pastor or lay minister looking to set up Benedict Option events in their parish?

My advice is to pick things that are a little stranger and more particular than the Young Adult Wine and Cheese gatherings one parish of mine used to have. We were all there just because we were the same age, but there was nothing to concentrate on, so we just had light, meaningless conversations (“Where do you work…”). Give people something a little meaty to discuss or to do, and don’t be afraid that that will narrow the event. It’s better to throw a few narrower events that let people connect than widely (but weakly) appealing ones.

 

The Benedict Option usually conjures the image of monks in a monastery, but the final image in your book is of friars in the world. What is their significance?  

I feel a little bad for St. Benedict, who did get dragged into this without the project having too much to do with him. Alasdair MacIntyre called for a “new and very different St. Benedict” who would imitate the saint in helping people hold onto what God has given us, even in the midst of tumult. Rod Dreher proposed the BenOp as a possible answer to MacIntyre’s call in our times. And I went with the name folks were using! The real connection is that our goal is to be as attentive to what God is asking of us as St. Benedict was and as faithful in following that call, but all the saints have that in common.

 

Final thoughts?

I’m hoping people don’t finish my book on the first reading, because they put it down to put one of the ideas into practice and forget to pick it up again until they’re clearing off the coffee table just before people come over.

***

Images courtesy Leah Libresco.

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Fortnite: Creating Community

“Do you play Fortnite?”

Nearly every day, I hear some variant on that question. Sometimes my high school students ask me; at other times I overhear them discussing details of the game to their peers. What is undeniable is that the game is everywhere these days.

The free-to-play game, accessible to anybody with a modern console or a working internet connection on a PC or smartphone, belongs to the “Battle Royale” genre in which exactly 100 people battle against one another to determine who will be the champion of the given round. Players either play solo or in groups of two to four in trying to outlast everybody else.

It takes quick-thinking skills to play as you react in a setting where 99 other players are against you. It requires strategic thinking: do you make direct engagement or build defensive structures? How can you find better vantage points over your opponents?

The popularity of the game is astounding. An estimated 40 million people play the game each month! And with so many people playing the game, it becomes nearly impossible to avoid knowing somebody who plays the game.

But the game is not all perfect. A great deal of news coverage deals with the addictive nature of the game. As with many multiplayer games, it can be so easy to say “just one more game.” When there can only be one winner and each player has only one chance, most end a game losing. And coming in second or third makes that next game even more tantalizing. A full round can take 20 to 30 minutes, so it can be easy to lose hours and even days to the game.  It takes self-control to be able to stop.

As with most video games, Fortnite can be isolating if handled poorly. Hours can be spent alone in front of a screen tucked away in a dark suburban basement. Plus there is the violent nature of the game, in which each player is attempting to kill off all the opposition.

While these objections are worth reflecting upon, I want to focus on what I find that is valuable in the game itself.

First, there is a real desire for connection. For example, millions of people follow popular livestreamer Ninja. 1 People literally tune in to watch him play the game. They hope to learn from how he plays the game, and they marvel at his skill, much like how people pay attention to professional athletes.

One other encouraging thing to note about this phenomenon is that it has some lasting power. Unlike Pokemon Go, whose chief popularity lasted only a few months, this game has continued to innovate to stay relevant without losing its essence in the process. The game is unafraid to take risks like being free-to-play 2 or its continued changes to the layout. New players can walk into the game fresh and older players can continue to appreciate the changes.

But I want to come back to the question I asked at the beginning, “Do you play Fortnite?”  People ask that question because they want to build connections. This game has become a cultural touchstone for gamers of this generation. They want to play with others; they want to share their experience with other people, because it is important to them. My students want to share their love for this experience with me.

As someone who grew up playing games with small groups, I treasure that sense of community with others. Some of my best friends were people who also played the games I played. I trust that people who spend their time playing Fortnite experience a similar sense of connection with people with whom they play. If it continues to be an avenue through which people make connections and can have fun, I hope that the game continues to be popular.

So…are you game?

 

//

Cover image courtesy of FlickrCC user Marco Arment.

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via IFTTT

Fortnite: Creating Community

“Do you play Fortnite?”

Nearly every day, I hear some variant on that question. Sometimes my high school students ask me; at other times I overhear them discussing details of the game to their peers. What is undeniable is that the game is everywhere these days.

The free-to-play game, accessible to anybody with a modern console or a working internet connection on a PC or smartphone, belongs to the “Battle Royale” genre in which exactly 100 people battle against one another to determine who will be the champion of the given round. Players either play solo or in groups of two to four in trying to outlast everybody else.

It takes quick-thinking skills to play as you react in a setting where 99 other players are against you. It requires strategic thinking: do you make direct engagement or build defensive structures? How can you find better vantage points over your opponents?

The popularity of the game is astounding. An estimated 40 million people play the game each month! And with so many people playing the game, it becomes nearly impossible to avoid knowing somebody who plays the game.

But the game is not all perfect. A great deal of news coverage deals with the addictive nature of the game. As with many multiplayer games, it can be so easy to say “just one more game.” When there can only be one winner and each player has only one chance, most end a game losing. And coming in second or third makes that next game even more tantalizing. A full round can take 20 to 30 minutes, so it can be easy to lose hours and even days to the game.  It takes self-control to be able to stop.

As with most video games, Fortnite can be isolating if handled poorly. Hours can be spent alone in front of a screen tucked away in a dark suburban basement. Plus there is the violent nature of the game, in which each player is attempting to kill off all the opposition.

While these objections are worth reflecting upon, I want to focus on what I find that is valuable in the game itself.

First, there is a real desire for connection. For example, millions of people follow popular livestreamer Ninja. 1 People literally tune in to watch him play the game. They hope to learn from how he plays the game, and they marvel at his skill, much like how people pay attention to professional athletes.

One other encouraging thing to note about this phenomenon is that it has some lasting power. Unlike Pokemon Go, whose chief popularity lasted only a few months, this game has continued to innovate to stay relevant without losing its essence in the process. The game is unafraid to take risks like being free-to-play 2 or its continued changes to the layout. New players can walk into the game fresh and older players can continue to appreciate the changes.

But I want to come back to the question I asked at the beginning, “Do you play Fortnite?”  People ask that question because they want to build connections. This game has become a cultural touchstone for gamers of this generation. They want to play with others; they want to share their experience with other people, because it is important to them. My students want to share their love for this experience with me.

As someone who grew up playing games with small groups, I treasure that sense of community with others. Some of my best friends were people who also played the games I played. I trust that people who spend their time playing Fortnite experience a similar sense of connection with people with whom they play. If it continues to be an avenue through which people make connections and can have fun, I hope that the game continues to be popular.

So…are you game?

 

//

Cover image courtesy of FlickrCC user Marco Arment.

from The Jesuit Post https://ift.tt/2NFiUgG
via IFTTT

Fortnite: Creating Community

“Do you play Fortnite?”

Nearly every day, I hear some variant on that question. Sometimes my high school students ask me; at other times I overhear them discussing details of the game to their peers. What is undeniable is that the game is everywhere these days.

The free-to-play game, accessible to anybody with a modern console or a working internet connection on a PC or smartphone, belongs to the “Battle Royale” genre in which exactly 100 people battle against one another to determine who will be the champion of the given round. Players either play solo or in groups of two to four in trying to outlast everybody else.

It takes quick-thinking skills to play as you react in a setting where 99 other players are against you. It requires strategic thinking: do you make direct engagement or build defensive structures? How can you find better vantage points over your opponents?

The popularity of the game is astounding. An estimated 40 million people play the game each month! And with so many people playing the game, it becomes nearly impossible to avoid knowing somebody who plays the game.

But the game is not all perfect. A great deal of news coverage deals with the addictive nature of the game. As with many multiplayer games, it can be so easy to say “just one more game.” When there can only be one winner and each player has only one chance, most end a game losing. And coming in second or third makes that next game even more tantalizing. A full round can take 20 to 30 minutes, so it can be easy to lose hours and even days to the game.  It takes self-control to be able to stop.

As with most video games, Fortnite can be isolating if handled poorly. Hours can be spent alone in front of a screen tucked away in a dark suburban basement. Plus there is the violent nature of the game, in which each player is attempting to kill off all the opposition.

While these objections are worth reflecting upon, I want to focus on what I find that is valuable in the game itself.

First, there is a real desire for connection. For example, millions of people follow popular livestreamer Ninja. 1 People literally tune in to watch him play the game. They hope to learn from how he plays the game, and they marvel at his skill, much like how people pay attention to professional athletes.

One other encouraging thing to note about this phenomenon is that it has some lasting power. Unlike Pokemon Go, whose chief popularity lasted only a few months, this game has continued to innovate to stay relevant without losing its essence in the process. The game is unafraid to take risks like being free-to-play 2 or its continued changes to the layout. New players can walk into the game fresh and older players can continue to appreciate the changes.

But I want to come back to the question I asked at the beginning, “Do you play Fortnite?”  People ask that question because they want to build connections. This game has become a cultural touchstone for gamers of this generation. They want to play with others; they want to share their experience with other people, because it is important to them. My students want to share their love for this experience with me.

As someone who grew up playing games with small groups, I treasure that sense of community with others. Some of my best friends were people who also played the games I played. I trust that people who spend their time playing Fortnite experience a similar sense of connection with people with whom they play. If it continues to be an avenue through which people make connections and can have fun, I hope that the game continues to be popular.

So…are you game?

 

//

Cover image courtesy of FlickrCC user Marco Arment.

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The End of the Church

In response to TJP  reporting on the clerical sex abuse crisis, many readers have challenged our ability to weigh in on moral and spiritual issues. Comments ranged from “The time for words is over, let’s see some action” to “You have lost all credibility. Let others deal with this.” The recent Kaepernick piece also elicited similar comments, especially ones suggesting we set our own house in order before criticizing others.  

And it’s not just TJP. Many priests, bishops and other church leaders have received similar responses to their own messages.

Within the Christian world, the burning question often seems to be whether politically conservative or liberal Christians will win the day. A 2017 New York Times article, for instance, painted the life of the Church in terms of the contest between “progressive, center-left Catholics” and “center-right Catholics.” What was sadly notable about the article was not its reduction of ecclesial matters to political ones, but how well it really captured the self-understanding of many Christians: caught up in a game to be the authoritative public face of Christianity.

But the anger, disappointment and frustration directed at us and others raises a more fundamental question than whether conservative or liberal Christians will prevail: will any religious group retain any credibility in the public square?

Put simply: much of the world has a hard time believing that the Church preaches Christ. They suspect and even fear that Christians are just like everyone else, that we are really trying to manipulate them. After all, if the Times can assimilate ecclesial life so effortlessly within our toxic political narratives, then what’s so special about the Church?

This does not mean that they are hostile to religion. But if they are not always hostile to religion, they are often apathetic. It is not obvious to them why they should take religion seriously. They need to be given reasons. Recent news headlines are not giving them that.

This speaks to the word play in my title: end as demise, and end as purpose. Christians have to regain credibility, and not just to avoid the demise of our public influence. We have to regain credibility because Christ commissioned us to proclaim the Gospel, and our public scandals have greatly reduced our ability to preach it. 

We need to seek reform through both institutional and personal conversion: institutional reform that shows our rejection of violence and power, and personal conversion freely chosen that brings us all closer to sanctity. Both have to show that we are who we say we are: sinners, but forgiven.

And, somehow, we will have to share that message with one another. We owe that to each other. We owe that to the world.

***

This article is a continuation of TJP’s November ’18 midterm elections series focused on faithful and discerning citizenship.

from The Jesuit Post https://ift.tt/2MjmN5S
via IFTTT

The End of the Church

In response to TJP  reporting on the clerical sex abuse crisis, many readers have challenged our ability to weigh in on moral and spiritual issues. Comments ranged from “The time for words is over, let’s see some action” to “You have lost all credibility. Let others deal with this.” The recent Kaepernick piece also elicited similar comments, especially ones suggesting we set our own house in order before criticizing others.  

And it’s not just TJP. Many priests, bishops and other church leaders have received similar responses to their own messages.

Within the Christian world, the burning question often seems to be whether politically conservative or liberal Christians will win the day. A 2017 New York Times article, for instance, painted the life of the Church in terms of the contest between “progressive, center-left Catholics” and “center-right Catholics.” What was sadly notable about the article was not its reduction of ecclesial matters to political ones, but how well it really captured the self-understanding of many Christians: caught up in a game to be the authoritative public face of Christianity.

But the anger, disappointment and frustration directed at us and others raises a more fundamental question than whether conservative or liberal Christians will prevail: will any religious group retain any credibility in the public square?

Put simply: much of the world has a hard time believing that the Church preaches Christ. They suspect and even fear that Christians are just like everyone else, that we are really trying to manipulate them. After all, if the Times can assimilate ecclesial life so effortlessly within our toxic political narratives, then what’s so special about the Church?

This does not mean that they are hostile to religion. But if they are not always hostile to religion, they are often apathetic. It is not obvious to them why they should take religion seriously. They need to be given reasons. Recent news headlines are not giving them that.

This speaks to the word play in my title: end as demise, and end as purpose. Christians have to regain credibility, and not just to avoid the demise of our public influence. We have to regain credibility because Christ commissioned us to proclaim the Gospel, and our public scandals have greatly reduced our ability to preach it. 

We need to seek reform through both institutional and personal conversion: institutional reform that shows our rejection of violence and power, and personal conversion freely chosen that brings us all closer to sanctity. Both have to show that we are who we say we are: sinners, but forgiven.

And, somehow, we will have to share that message with one another. We owe that to each other. We owe that to the world.

***

This article is a continuation of TJP’s November ’18 midterm elections series focused on faithful and discerning citizenship.

from The Jesuit Post https://ift.tt/2MjmN5S
via IFTTT